There are few dining experiences that feel more elegant than afternoon tea. Even though we’re far from England, there are places around the Tampa Bay area that offer an enchanting tea experience. Here are five to check out.
Joseph’s Tea Room
Don’t let the location turn you away: This Clearwater tea room’s spot in a strip mall off U.S. 19 belies the charm that can be found inside. With bright turquoise walls, colorful teapots adorning shelves and gold accents throughout, this family-owned company offers a solid option for afternoon (or anytime) tea. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and until 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Joseph’s Tea Room has a full tea service for $38 — and a deluxe one that includes two glasses of Champagne per person and chocolate-covered strawberries for $50. There’s also an a la carte menu from which guests can order sandwiches, salads and even more sweet treats.
The tea service includes a pot of tea to start, and guests can choose from more than 75 tea flavors, which the Josephs source themselves. The first course is a berry salad, topped with a sweet dressing and walnuts. From there, each guest chooses a whole sandwich and a half sandwich, which is a nice way to try more than one from the large menu. The chicken salad is delicious. The sandwiches are served on a tiered tray with scones, tea biscuits and other assorted sweets that rotate often. Make good use of the organic jam and Devonshire cream, which are served on the side and pair beautifully with the scones and tea biscuits. Owner Shannon Joseph said it’s her goal to not have anyone leave hungry after the tea service, and that certainly seems doable given the portions.
Joseph’s is a family-owned and family-run business, with Shannon Joseph manning this location and her husband Guerby Joseph running their tea bar, which recently opened at 1153 Main St. in Dunedin. Shannon’s mom makes most of the savory items from scratch, and the majority of the baked goods are made in-house, too. Food allergies are top of mind here, so you’ll find vegan cupcakes, tons of gluten-free items and more to accommodate as many diners as possible. Reservations are required, and children under 4 are not allowed.
Joseph’s Tea Room: 25028 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater; 352-679-1339. Joseph’s Tea Bar: 1153 Main St., Dunedin; 727-788-1085. josephstea.com.
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Every Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m., this gorgeous restaurant just outside downtown Tampa hosts an afternoon tea. There are two options here. The Champagne Tea, which is $55, includes an assortment of sweet and savory bites, plus scones with sweet cream and house preserves. To drink, guests can choose a tea and also a glass of Champagne. There’s also the Afternoon Tea for $45, which is the same minus the booze. They also offer a Children’s Tea for $20, which includes kid-friendly almond butter and banana finger sandwiches, grilled cheese finger sandwiches, scones, desserts and a choice of tea.
You can’t beat the setting at Oxford Exchange, which is open till 5 p.m. every day and offers a robust menu that includes a weekend brunch. With tall ceilings, tons of natural light and black-and-white tile floor that’s reminiscent of a European cafe, it’s a lovely place to while away an afternoon. When you’re finished with your tea experience, stick around and visit the Champagne Bar, where you can opt for a flight of bubbly, or peruse the bookstore.
420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. oxfordexchange. 813-253-0222.
You may not associate this iconic south St. Petersburg restaurant with afternoon tea, but the British influence is strong here: Owner Helen Lund bought the restaurant in 1951, and her son Everett took over in 1983 with his wife Jillian Lund Frers, who was born in England. They’ve set up in the back dining room a collection of tea sets and lovely chinaware, a sweet ambience for the daily tea service. It starts with a pot of unlimited English tea served with matching teacups and saucers. Then comes the two-tier server, stacked with dainty sandwiches including classic cucumber tea sandwiches, plus options including chicken or egg salad. There are also scones served with clotted cream and jam, and confections that have included things like petits fours, macarons and mousse.
Reservations for afternoon tea must be made at least 48 hours in advance. The cost is $35 per person, $25 for ages 16-11, $20 for ages 10 and below.
358 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg. thechattawayteas.com.
Dunedin’s boutique hotel provides a lovely setting for afternoon tea. The tea service isn’t available all the time, but rather as part of the hotel’s series of various events. In the past, they’ve offered teas for special occasions like Mother’s Day, and they’re planning a spooky-themed one for Oct. 22 ($59) that will include Garden of Evil punch, raspberry and ginger scones, beef sliders with pumpkin bacon jam and beets, bloody red velvet cheesecake and more. Check the Fenway’s event calendar for exact days and times, but they are typically held monthly.
At a recent tea we attended, the menu was a nice mix of savory bites and sweet morsels. To start, we were offered a glass of bubbly and lavender vanilla scones. Then, our choice of a caffeinated or caffeine-free tea, which the servers poured from colorful teapots. They kept the tea flowing throughout the service. Next came a three-tiered stand loaded with goodies: crab ravigote on endive, wild mushroom en croute and curried chicken salad profiteroles. Just the right size, the small bites were nourishing but not too filling. We needed to save room for what came next: another three-tiered tray with assorted tea cookies, macarons and chocolate tulips with strawberry mousse — a nice twist on chocolate-covered strawberries. Our tea took place in the hotel’s HEW Parlor and Chophouse, an upscale restaurant that is otherwise open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Full of natural light and blue accents, it’s a charming location for a spot of tea.
453 Edgewater Drive, Dunedin. 844-569-9879. fenwayhotel.com. Prices vary for tea service.
The Vinoy Resort and Golf Club
The Vinoy recently started offering a service that highlights its history — and its high tea service. The historic hotel is a fun place to peruse, and even better when a docent can lead you around on a one-hour walking tour that showcases old photos and memorabilia. After the tour comes the main event: a high tea service on the hotel’s mezzanine featuring a pot of tea, finger sandwiches, scones and desserts.
The desserts are made by the Vinoy’s pastry team and come from Lottie, the new French bakery in the lobby. A nice touch during this tea service: The food and tea are served with historic silver found during a renovation. The tour and tea experience is available from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday to Sunday and costs $109 per person ($55 for children 12 and under).
501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. 727-404-5251.